WELLINGTON (AFP) - Team New Zealand's America's Cup future was in jeopardy on Friday, as they pleaded for an urgent government cash injection to keep them afloat.
However, the government was not immediately forthcoming with Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce saying he wanted to see the team's sponsors front up first.
"My preference is that they get some actual cash from their commercial sponsors because this can't be a government-funded challenge," he told Television New Zealand.
Team New Zealand has been one of the leading contenders in yachting's most prestigious event in recent decades, winning in 1995 and 2000, and the beaten finalist in the three of the four regattas since.
But team boss Grant Dalton, in a desperate plea to keep the syndicate afloat, said they would be "gone by the end of the month" if the government does not come to the rescue.
It is the second time they have sought government help after receiving NZ$5 million (S$5.4 million) in bridging finance last October.
Dalton said they had never been in a better position with sponsorship money, but that it would not become available until February once full details of the next America's Cup regatta in 2017 are known.
However, Mr Joyce said it was troubling that "Dalton hasn't actually got any sponsors' money on the table yet, despite having had since October last year" to raise funds.
Dalton said Team New Zealand had access to private funds to help tide them over but only if the government was also on board.
"In many respects we're stronger than we have ever been. We're operational, we're sound, we've got a lot of sponsor interest. But we have a serious cash-flow issue," he said.
"If we go (under), there ain't no coming back. The start-up price of a team from scratch is so astronomical that it will never happen in this country."
The full cost of an America's Cup challenge is estimated to be about US$150 million.